[Yamaha]

KYRON BACON: UNDER THE HELMET

3 months ago | Words: Miller Mendham | Photos: Yamaha Motor Australia

In recent years, Kyron Bacon has certainly left his mark on the Aussie off-road racing scene, having won the AORC’s EJ (Under 19) class back in 2019 and run an impressive third in the E1 class in 2020. But this quietly spoken young Tasmanian says there’s more to come. Much more. And it’s hard to doubt that confidence, given the dominant way he’s kicked off his 2022 season. This year, after signing on with the powerhouse ShopYamaha Off-Road Racing team, Bacon has already claimed Outright wins at three of the 2022 Yamaha Australian Off-Road Championship’s (AORC) opening four rounds, including a clean sweep of the season opener. Plus, he’s done it aboard a WR250F, and with the composure and consistency not typical of a teenager racer.

Just before Bacon lined up for his first crack at the Australian 4-Day Enduro – being held this week in Victoria – we sat down with the 19-year-old Tasmanian to get a fix on where things started, his newfound speed, the riders who’ve mentored him along the way, and what to expect from him in the future…

TM: Where did your riding start? And has racing the AORC always been part of your plan?
KB: Well, I first started riding when I was three years old. Growing up, my brother and dad used to race, so that’s kind of what got me into the racing side of things. When I started riding, I didn’t have any boots or anything back then for my first race. So, I’d wear gumboots as there was nothing in my size. At around 10 or 11, I started getting a bit more competitive and that’s kind of where it all started to take off. And as I moved onto the Honda 150, I started riding a little bit with a few older people, like [four-time Enduro World Champion, and fellow Tasmanian] Matt Phillips, which definitely helped me out along the way. Matt sorted me out with my first team ride, which was on the Honda BCP team.

“OH, HANG ON A MINUTE. WHO’S THIS FELLA?”

Tell us about your first AORC race.
At 13, I did my first AORC. It was the last two rounds of the season, and no one really knew who I was, and they weren’t expecting me to do well. I just wanted to see where I was at and have a bit of fun with it. But after coming in from the first two Sprint loops, I think I was second in the Junior class. So, everyone was like, “Oh, hang on a minute. Who’s this fella?”. I mean, I was shocked; I didn’t know how I ended up there. After that, it just kind of all took off, and since then, it’s just been getting better and better. I’ve been doing the full AORC series for a few years, as well as the Tassie state off-road rounds.

“I’D WEAR GUMBOOTS, AS THERE WAS NOTHING IN MY SIZE.”

Talking about your involvement with Matt Phillips, how did you two come to know one another? And what’s his involvement been with your riding and racing?
Dad’s been mates with Matt Phillips for a few years now. Dad used to be the president of the Tassie club down here, so Matt’s known him for a fair while. But I just went riding with Matt one day, and from there he started giving me a few pointers. A few years later, just after he got back from Europe, we started riding together for a fair bit. I helped get him back into riding again, and then he found he was keen to pick up with his racing again. That’s when we decided to start our own team in 2019 with support from MXstore, Ballard’s OffRoad and KTM. Matt and I were teammates for a year on KTMs, which was awesome, and he became a mentor for me. Through that, he helped me a lot with bikes, training, riding, and just everything really. For instance, as I want to go overseas eventually, he’s been trying to get a lot of technical and sketchy riding in with me, which they do a lot of over in Europe.

Speaking of KTM, word on the street is that the KTM group tried pretty hard to get you onto one of their three brands for this season. What made you stick with Yamaha, who’d been giving you some support through their bLUcRU program in 2021?
Well, we’ve been on Yamaha for the past few years now. I’ve gelled with the bike in the last year. Plus, not only was the deal better, but we’ve finally got the bike’s settings sorted; a set-up we’re happy with. And we’ve built a good relationship with [ShopYamaha Off-Road Racing team boss] AJ Roberts and the entire Yamaha team, so we just wanted to keep that successful relationship rolling.

“IT’S GOOD TO PUSH EACH OTHER, AND THIS YEAR WE’VE NOTICED THAT, EVEN IN AORC, HE AND I ARE STILL CLOSE AND BATTLING UP THE TOP.”

AJ Roberts was telling us that you were riding a WR250F for the AORC and A4DE, but a YZ250FX cross-country model for desert racing this year. Why is that? And was it your choice or Yamaha’s?
That was Yamaha’s choice, but it would be my choice too. The FX just seems to be a bit more motocross spec, which is better in the desert, whereas the WR-F runs a softer, more compliant set-up, which makes it better suited to the bush in the Off-Road events. But for the Hattah Desert Race, we’re trying to get the maximum power out of our bikes. And because of that, our set-up needs to be a bit stiffer and more aggressive. The FX has also got a six-speed gearbox, so it’s just a perfect bike to be riding in Hattah, especially in the 250 class.

Over the past couple of seasons, you’ve been a frontrunner in the E1 class and won the EJ title back in 2019. Before this year, you’ve generally run just inside the top 10 Outright. And then suddenly, you started to win rounds Outright this year. Did that surprise you?
Definitely. We haven’t really been racing the last two years – not full seasons anyway – so it hasn’t been easy to judge where I’m at. I’ve been kind of trying to do my own thing down here is Tassie, and just improve really. Me and another fella called Jonty Reynders have been pushing each other at the Tassie rounds. At most races, it’s been just me and him battling it out. It’s been really good to have him down here because it’s close between he and I at every race. It’s good to push each other, and this year we’ve noticed that, even in the AORC, he and I are still close and battling up the top. It’s good to have someone to push my pace year-round.

Aside from riding more with Jonty, have you changed anything else in your training regime, or do you think the jump up in the Outright standings has to do with your 250 being better suited to the sloppy and more techy stuff that’s been a feature of the AORC’s opening rounds?
The 250’s just been a good bike. All the tracks have all been pretty technical this year, so it’s been a solid package to have this year. I’ve changed up my training a little bit too, especially this year, because this is my first proper year as a full factory rider. That means I’ve got to put in a lot more work – and training – off the bike. Before 2022, I hadn’t done much of that, so it’s a bit of a shock for me. I’m definitely still learning that side of things, and I’m lucky enough to have Kona Nutrition to help with my diet and hydration – which has actually been a bit of a weakness for me in the last few years. For 2022, we’ve now got a good combo, and we’ve got a lot of good people supporting me. So I’m stoked.

“I’VE LOOKED UP TO MILNER PRETTY MUCH EVER SINCE I STARTED THE AORC, HE’S DEFINITELY THE SMOOTHEST RIDER I’VE EVER SEEN OFF-ROAD.”

Diving back into the history books, the last time a 250 won an AORC Outright title was Daniel Milner back in 2013. That was also Yamaha’s last AORC Outright title. Has Milner been an idol for you? And has he given you a bit of a target to chase?

I’ve looked up to Milner pretty much since I started the AORC as he’s always been the number-one guy. He’s definitely the smoothest rider I’ve ever seen off-road, so he’s a good person to look up to. I’m just trying to keep ticking off my goals, and hopefully I can end up being like him one day. That’s the big goal.

What are your main racing aspirations for the future? Stepping up to a 450? Being selected on Australia’s ISDE team? Racing the GNCC in America or EnduroGP in Europe?
Yeah, definitely. All of those things. I’m not sure where my racing’s going to take me yet, but I’d definitely like to go to Europe or America when I’m older. But at the moment, I think I’ll stay with the 250; at least until I get a bit stronger anyway. I’m not really built to be riding a 450 yet, to be honest, and I’m happy racing the 250. It would be a big goal to go to America or Europe; that’s the main one. But I’ll just tick a few things off the list first. To race the International Six-Day Enduro as well … that would be unreal to go do that and represent Australia.

Do you have a timeframe for your international plans?
Oh, just kind of take it as it comes really. I’m not really sure. Whether I can just do it or get offered to go over there is another thing. You’ve got to be good enough to get offered a contract overseas. It’s just one of those things; I’ll just take it as it comes for now.

It’s been awesome to have a chat, Kyron. Keen to watch your career unfold over the next few years. Meantime, go get ’em at the 4-Day in Victoria. The weather forecast is looking a tad wet for that event. Right up your alley, mate!
Yeah, hopefully. Cool to talk with you, Miller.

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